The Jacksonville Jaguars, the Jaguars Foundation and the Weaver Family Foundation have been active and productive once again in 2001, in responding to needs in and around the Jacksonville community. In the seven years since these organizations came to Jacksonville, each has made significant contributions locally through donations, grants, in-kind support and numerous programs designed to specifically address the needs of First Coast residents.
In 2000 alone, more than 2,200 organizations - including charities, non-profits, schools, churches and civic groups - were assisted by the Jaguars' community affairs department through personal appearances or donations. A total of 1,077 autographed items were donated to assist in fund-raising events, and a total of 1,132 personal appearances were made by Jaguars players, staff, cheerleaders and team mascot.
Since its first grants in March of 1995, the Jaguars Foundation has awarded strategic grants totaling more than $3.5 million throughout the Jacksonville area to programs designed to assist disadvantaged youth. Last year the Jaguars Foundation provided about $800,000 in grant allocations to area non-profit organizations, in addition to more than $420,000 in value including about 12,000 tickets to Jaguars home games through the Honor Rows program and other youth programs. The Honor Rows program alone provided more than 4,000 seats, which were earned by youth through dozens of local nonprofit agencies. These are only part of the Foundation's mission, which is aimed at assisting socially and economically disadvantaged youth in the greater Jacksonville area.
A website, www.playbooks.org , was launched in October 2000 to promote reading and encourage the use of the public library system. playbooks.org is an electronic version of the Playbooks reading list, plus interactive and fun features for kids such as games, e-mail to Jaxson de Ville, and book reviews. There are also helpful hints and website links for parents.
Straight Talk, the collaborative program focusing on reducing teen pregnancy, as well as HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, will host its third live town hall forum in May 2001. Straight Talk simulcast their last live forum on May 25, 2000 on all seven local television stations, as well as raised awareness through linkage with radio, billboard, newspaper and Internet partners.
Through the Foundation's establishment of the Nike/Jaguars Foundation Community Scholars Program, full college tuition scholarships have been awarded to selected Honor Rows participants. This has grown into a $500,000 program with matching funds from the State of Florida, and involves mentor assistance from honors students at the University of North Florida.
The Foundation has also assisted established programs in the community, and has served to distribute in-kind support items which are donated, such as used bicycles, clothing, computers, office equipment, and even school playground equipment.
Partnering with the nation's largest health care philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Jaguars Foundation has established an aggressive campaign to reduce use of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs by youth. Included in this campaign are public service announcements featuring active Jaguars players, sending the message that smoking is neither "cool" nor conducive to athletic performance.
Through the Weaver Family Foundation, Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver have supported many local agencies and initiatives. Since 1995 they have made contributions to Jacksonville organizations totaling more than $3.8 million, which includes $200,000 of their $1 million commitment to The United Way of Northeast Florida. The balance of that commitment will be paid over the next four years.
Delores Barr Weaver, Owner/Partner of the Jaguars and Chair and CEO of the Jaguars Foundation, organized a golf tournament in 1996, along with WJXT-TV 4 sports director Sam Kouvaris, to benefit HabiJax, the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. The proceeds from this annual tournament have been used to build a total of 18 houses in the Jacksonville area, which represents a contribution of almost $600,000 since the first tournament in 1996. The 2000 tournament was the best ever, with a net profit of more than $207,000 and expenses of only $24,000.
In addition to the Jaguars' work, that of the Jaguars Foundation and the Weavers, tremendous social impact has been made by foundations established by Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin and several players. The Jay Fund, established by Coughlin in 1996, assists local youth and their families who are affected by leukemia. A net total of $606,000 has been raised through The Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic, with those funds going directly to aid local families and to provide research in the area of pediatric leukemia.
Quarterback Mark Brunell's charity golf tournament, begun in 1997, has donated more than $475,000 to Wolfson Children's Hospital, specifically to benefit children receiving pediatric and neonatal intensive care. Offensive tackle Tony Boselli's foundation has several programs, including Shop With a Jock, Most Valuable Teacher Award, and Score for Scholarships, as well as a celebrity golf tournament which has netted more than $280,000 to fund foundation programs. Boselli and his wife Angi have also made a commitment to fund an athletic program for Safe Harbor Boys Home, a Christian group home in Jacksonville for boys ages 15 to 18.
Offensive tackle Leon Searcy's The Searcy Foundation benefits physically challenged and underprivileged youth in Jacksonville and in his hometown of Orlando. Wide receiver Keenan McCardell's Touching Hands Foundation supports, among other programs, breast cancer research at Baptist Regional Cancer Institute, which has received nearly $20,000 directly from McCardell the past two seasons based on his reception and touchdown totals. Punter Bryan Barker and his wife, Leah, established the Let us Play Foundation and the Let us Play Sports Camp for Girls, which has become a model camp to encourage inner-city girls through sports and education.
Defensive end Joel Smeenge established the Lorenz-Smeenge Foundation in 1998 to assist children suffering from pediatric facial disorders. Wide receiver Jimmy Smith is active with asthma education programs through the American Lung Association and Wolfson Children's Hospital. Smith has donated more than $26,000 to the hospital the past two seasons based on his receptions and touchdowns.
McCardell (Juvenile Diabetes, Wolfson Children's Hospital) and Searcy (Diabetes Education at Baptist-St. Vincent's, and National Kidney Foundation) are active with other programs in addition to the work of their own foundations.
Some of the other Jaguars players actively involved in community awareness programs and fund-raising are:
cornerback Fernando Bryant (Hubbard House), safety Donovin Darius (Communities in Schools), tight end Rich Griffith (Boy Scouts of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Muscular Dystrophy Association), placekicker Mike Hollis (Wolfson Children's Hospital/American Cancer Society), tight end Damon Jones (Spina Bifida Association), running back Fred Taylor (Jacksonville Housing Partnership) and defensive end Renaldo Wynn (Cystic Fibrosis Foundation).
All of the programs described here, and all of the money raised and donated, has taken place in the six-and-a-half years since the Jaguars came to Jacksonville. When the team was awarded on November 30, 1993, Wayne and Delores Weaver vowed to repay the commitment made by the citizens of Jacksonville. These direct benefits to the Jacksonville community are living proof that the Jaguars are delivering on that promise.